[Malaysiakini] Barricade re-erected, clashes with residents
~ By Syed Jaymal Zahiid
It did not take long for toll concessionaire Grand Saga to rebuild a concrete barricade to block a toll-free access road to the Cheras-Kajang Highway in Bandar Mahkota Cheras (BMC).
The task of building the five-foot high wall across the double-lane access road started at about 1am and was completed by 3.30pm today.
But tensions rose when BMC residents who attempted to tear down the wall clashed with a group of men purported hired by Grand Saga to protect the barricade.
According to residents, about a dozen people were injured after they were assaulted by 30 'thugs'.
BMC Open the Road Committee Tan Boon Hwa when contacted this evening said that he had received information that the men were armed with iron rods, helmets and sticks.
“At about 7pm, the thugs came and assaulted the residents who tried to bring down the barricades. There was even a female resident who was beaten up by eight thugs,” Tan told Malaysiakini.
Tan, who was at a clinic where one of the injured was seeking treatment, said he was not at the scene when the clash occured.
He had earlier made a police report against the presence of the ‘gangsters’ in the vicinity of the re-erected barricade.
Demolition at work
By about 10pm, some 400 to 500 residents had gathered at the site, attempting to remove the concrete barriers.
According to eyewitnesses, about three or four of the huge boulders were removed.
It is also learnt that two residents have been admitted at Kajang hospital after suffering injuries caused by the thugs. One of them is said to have suffered facial injuries and a broken hand.
The police had tried to urge the crowd to disperse but the orders were ignored by the residents.
About five patrol vehicles were on standby, with a dozen of police personnel keeping a close watch on the residents.
By about 10.10pm, six Federal Reserve Unit trucks along with about 100 riot police arrived at the scene.
The residents were once again told to disperse and this time the crowd slowly started to move away.
They had completely left the place by 11.40pm.
Kajang OCPD ACP Shakaruddin Che Mood told reporters that a total of five police reports were lodged by the residents today. He also said that the police were uncertain as to the identity of the ‘thugs'.
Meanwhile just as everyone had left the place, a bit of drama unfolded when the police moved in to stop a vehicle and arrested four people - three men and a woman - from it. The driver of the car was assaulted while being arrested and suffered a bloodied nose.
The police said that they were arrested for reckless driving that could have caused injuries to the police personnel.
Barricade goes back up
Yesterday, Grand Saga executive director Zainal Abidin Ali issued a statement, vowing to rebuild the barriers within a week.
About 200 residents were at the scene this afternoon to watch the barricade go up but did not take any action to stop the workers.
The residents have earlier pledged not to demolish the barricade, unlike on two previous occasions, as the highway company has a court order in its favour.
Community leader Tan (right) told Malaysiakini this morning that they would now leave the matter in the hands of the Selangor government.
"We will let the state government handle this. Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim has stated that it is illegal to build the barricade on the road as indicated by the findings of the Ulu Langat Land Office," said Tan when contacted.
But the situation appeared to have gotten out of hand a few hours later when men apparently working for Grand Saga were brought in to guard the wall against an enraged group of residents.
The battle for free access to the highway has been going on for three years but came to a boil on April 21 when the residents demolished the original barricade - built in 2005 - with the support of some newly-elected Pakatan Rakyat representatives.
Grand Saga was quick to put up the barrier again, only for it to be torn down again by the frustrated residents.
However, Grand Saga's attempt to rebuild the wall - for the third time - on the night of May 8 was abandoned after volleys of tear gas were fired by the police at the residents.
Four days later, the residents failed in their bid to get the High Court to restrain the toll operator from re-erecting the barricade.
With this court ruling in Grand Saga's favour, Zainal Abidin gave notice yesterday that the company was going to build a barricade and hoped the residents would not interfere with the court ruling.
He said the court, in throwing out the injunction, had noted that Grand Saga has the right to build a barricade “within its indisputable concession area”.
The new Selangor government has however argued that the area where the barricade was built, is part of state land and questioned the toll operator’s right in erecting the barrier.
According to Tan, the new barricade is about two feet away from the old barrier. At five feet, the wall of mostly boulders is much higher than the original three-foot concrete barrier.
State to react within 24 hours
Khalid's political secretary Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, in an immediate response to the rebuilding of the barricade, said the best possible action is being discussed with lawyers.
"We have already told Grand Saga that if they wish to dispute the jurisdiction over the road, they should take it to court. They should not barricade the road until the matter is legally resolved," replied Nik Nazmi.
Nik Nazmi added that the Selangor government will announce its action within 24 hours as it has various issues to consider.
The toll concessionaire had barricaded the access road three years ago - a move which upset the residents who had been using the road to enter the expressway without having to pay toll at Batu 11, Cheras.
The concrete barrier forced commuters to travel an additional six kilometres and pay Grand Saga 90 sen toll for every trip. (see Google map below)
Two weeks ago, Khalid had given all the parties involved in the dispute - Grand Saga, BMC developers Narajaya and the Malaysian Highway Authority - seven days to reach an amicable solution.
But Grand Saga's Zainal Abidin yesterday said that "the issue unfortunately has not been resolved" after the lapse of the seven days.
Watch 2-min video of Grand Saga's wall
SPECIAL REPORT: The Grand Saga in Cheras
The above article is taken from Malaysiakini.